This will be the fourth World Youth Day, during my time as Director of Schools, where groups of staff have been able to join with the young people of the world in celebrating their faith.
The first of these was the memorable, really unforgettable, WYD in Sydney in 2008 where Australia celebrated the coming together of the youth of the world in a liturgically and spiritually uplifting way.
The highlights for me were the beautiful liturgies celebrated at the Kilaben Bay centre for the Days in the Diocese where the various nations hosted the celebration of the Eucharist according to their cultural traditions; the Stations of the Cross at Darling Harbour; the walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge with the hundreds of thousands of others to Randwick Racecourse; and the World Youth Day Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
The enthusiasm of the young people of our diocese that was evident in 2008 carried through to the Madrid, Spain WYD in 2011 and then again in 2013 at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
A feature of our diocese’s involvement in the Rio WYD was the commitment to a missionary immersion prior to joining the millions of others on Copacabana Beach for the WYD Mass. The exposure to the poverty of parts of Brazil and the commitment of the Church to addressing this poverty and injustice has had a lasting effect on the members of staff from our schools who attended.
For 2016, WYD will honour the work of Pope John Paul II, who instigated this gathering of the youth of the world, by gathering in Krakow the seat of his archdiocese before being elected as Pope.
It will be a special time for the young people of our diocese as they travel through many of the sacred sites of Europe en route to Krakow where they will be joined by the people of Poland, a country which has suffered incredible hardship in its history but which values its Catholic faith as evident in its many struggles over time.
Head of Religious Education and Spirituality in the CSO, Brian Lacey and Sue Lacey, Religious Education and Ministry Coordinator at St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton were commissioned by Bishop Bill as the coordinators of the 2016 WYD pilgrimage.
They will be joined by RE&Spirituality Education Officer, Bernadette Gibson who has coordinated the last two World Youth Days for the diocese. Bernadette will particularly work with the teaching staff of our diocese who will attend the Krakow celebrations.
I encourage the staff of our Catholic schools to embrace the opportunity to be part of this significant international celebration of faith.